Applications for Chicago’s pilot cash assistance program have been open for a week, and so far the city says more than 100,000 applications have been issued.
Eligible applicants will be entered into a lottery to determine who will receive $500 per month for one year. Ultimately, 5,000 households will receive checks in one of the largest guaranteed income tests across the country.
“I am heartened to find that the application is simple enough that many people have applied and have been able to complete the application, that the city has invested in awareness. It is very good. It is also disheartening to know that so many of our neighbors are in need of cash support right now,” said Harish Patel, director of economic security for Illinois.
The city tapped the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago to lead outreach efforts and guide people through the application process.
“We’ve put together sets of marketing materials to get the word out in the community. Hundreds of community partners stand with the YWCA to spread the word. So, flyers are distributed in the community, organizations send out emails, we have virtual assistance where residents can hear and learn about the program, learn how to complete the application,” said Nicole Robinson, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. “We host in-person events where people can find out what their options are. And again, this is for everyone. So caregivers, undocumented parents. There is support in six different languages. So we meet people where they are so that anyone who wants to apply has a solution to help them.
The association GiveDirectly is responsible for administering the pilot, which includes building the application process. Sarah Moran, Country Manager in the United States, said accessibility and simplicity were top priorities when building the platform.
“One of the things that was really challenging was how to create a scalable app that’s also really accessible and especially for populations that aren’t super tech savvy, who may be unstable housing or homeless, who may not don’t have constant access to phones or computers,” Moran said. “So what we’ve actually built is an application that can be done by an individual, by themselves. It’s really simple. It doesn’t take only about 20 minutes to complete, but it can also be implemented in an assisted model.
Equity and Transformation founder and executive director Richard Wallace served on the city’s advisory group. Members of his organization also participated in testing the application process.
“I think what we knew at the outset was that accessibility and eligibility were often barriers for our people,” Wallace said. “One of our main organizers was able to get a few of our members together to test the app and they said it was accessible and they said they were eligible. And so for me that was the key for me to be like, OK, we’re going to keep promoting this.
University of Chicago Inclusive Economics Lab will study the impact and effectiveness of the pilot. Patel says he is confident the results of the study will make the pilot a success.
“This study is going to show that when you make it simple and easy and you empower people and let them decide what to do with that money, how they want to help their family, that’s actually the easiest and more stimulating to help our neighbours. “, Patel said. “And when that happens, I think we will see changes in all the different departments that provide services in the city.
The cash assistance pilot application window will remain open until May 13 at chicago.gov/cashpilot.